long way up

“The Long Way Round” and “Long Way Down” were television shows that apparently skipped my time. I say this because once I finished Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s latest “ The Long Way Up,” I realized they have done two separate trips. Their latest adventure follows them traveling a total of 13,000 miles, through 13 countries over 100 days as they visit some beautiful locations. To make things more interesting, instead of your typical motorbike, it was decided that they would drive electric motorcycles which provides them with their own set of challenges. I can’t call it necessarily gripping television, but there’s no denying that I was massively entertained over its 10 episodes. For the most part, that’s due to the instantaneous chemistry established between our two leads.

As someone who’s never seen their previous installments, nothing about their friendship feels manufactured. Even for reality television, both men don’t “act” in front of the camera, but give us a peek inside a friendship. For this sort of travel TV, there are moments where the relationships could feel overly scripted. It’s nice to see these two men have a banter with each other that feels honest. That banter helps carry over with some of the “drama” in the story that feels nothing more than forced. These events can include catching a train on time, the wrong plane being ordered and their electronic motorbikes needing a charge. You never feel the “tension” directors David Alexanian and Russ Malkin want, but it’s a slight qualm. There is a huge benefit to the series for one particular detail throughout their travels.

Getting to see these highly coveted settings was an absolutely spellbinding sight to watch. Going from locations to Peru, Nicaragua, Colombia, and Panama really give the audience a feast for the eyes. It is a nice change of pace for the audience because it feels as if we’re along on this trip with them. The only real gripe I had is that some instances, particularly in the middle of the season, feel a bit self-indulgent. For ten episodes I was never necessarily bored, but even in a trip covering 13,000 miles some moments just don’t land. In the latter half of the series, some of that drama takes a turn that’s actually effective.

Particularly around the seventh episode which involves a trip to Peru, a lot of the falsified drama dissipates. Here the tension comes from British individuals navigating an unfamiliar land that they just barely have a grasp on. What’s so interesting about this is the minutiae of the travel process that involves the simple tasks of getting a passport. These instances work as well as they do because of the hilarity of McGregor and Boorman. While they’re designed for drama, both of them make it absolutely hilarious and constantly engaging to watch. It’s a unique difference in the cliches of the typical travel television show, and that very reason is why this show works for me as well as it does.

“Long Way Up” is a show that plays as the equivalent of television comfort food. The show played on a weekly basis (every Friday) but that’s where it falters the most. I was fortunate enough to get the entire season early, but it’s easy to see how the weekly schedule would frustrate viewers. That very reason is why it's hard for me to be overly enthusiastic about recommending this show. That’s no fault to those involved, but in the age of binge-able television, it’s hard not to notice. If you have an Apple TV+ subscription, you really can’t do better than a mellow ride with some likable people.

Rating: 3/5

Watch the trailer here. 

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